December 1s t this year is 157th the anniversary of the Eureka Stockade — which was a truly defining moment in the history of this land, says Kim Peart.
On the 1st of December 1854 the first Southern Cross flag was raised at the Ballarat gold fields, where 10,000 miners from diverse parts of Australia and around the World pledged an oath:
“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”
Three days later the rebellion was over, when British forces stormed the Eureka Stockade, but the memory of those days and the Southern Cross flag live on as legend in our national culture.
As we eternally mull over our national identity, whether we will become a republic, whether we will adopt a new national flag and whether we will have a different national day, it may help to remember the 1st of December as a moment in time when Australia could have become quite a different land.
Modern Australia was founded as an invasion by British forces to establish a prison. Is this the most appropriate event to remember each year as our national day? For a great many, this is Invasion Day.
It has often been wondered if the 25th of April would be a more appropriate national day, but again, this date marks an invasion and in a far off land. The memory of the ANZACs may be better served as a day of peace.
Ultimately, it may come down to individual choice that becomes collectively shared, if we decide to remember a uniquely Australian event, when the first Southern Cross flag flew in this land and 10,000 miners and their families shared a different vision for the future, which included liberty.
If we stop to remember the words of those miners on the first day of December each year, we may begin to see how we can be a free and independent people, with our own elected leader and with the beloved Southern Cross flag, a new design without the Jack, flying in our skies.
We may even find the words to sing a new song, one that truly echoes across our mountains and deserts and speaks of who we are in this great southern land.
(This story was originally published in the Tasmanian Times on December 1, 2011, and has been republished with the author’s permission.)